Making sure we understand each others

Government officials and experts working on new laws that will apply throughout the EU must be able to read and discuss these texts in their own language. So the Commission cannot function without translators for written texts and interpreters for real-time discussions. Marta is an interpreter.

Marta was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1966. She is an interpreter for Spanish.

Marta Sanz Fernández

‘We interpret on every conceivable topic. They are sometimes so technical that I have to learn terminology in my native Spanish before I master it in other languages. And when Spaniards use bullfighting images, it can be hard to find the equivalent in another language. It is very satisfying when a person you are interpreting for takes his turn to speak with a degree of confidence which shows that he has fully understood what previous speakers have said in other languages.’

Marta works in Spanish, French, Italian, Greek and Portuguese, but — unusually — not in English. ‘In fact, I had never thought of becoming an EU interpreter, because I assumed English was essential. I only discovered differently when helping a colleague at the Defence Ministry in Madrid with the application form’.

Another surprise was that ‘the Commission really is an equal opportunity employer. I was seven months’ pregnant at the interview and expected to be asked to start work after the baby was born. But I was told “Congratulations, you are hired” and sent on maternity leave one month later.’

Moving to Brussels meant Marta could give her four children the same experience she had of living abroad — she spent part of her childhood in Morocco. It had a downside for her husband, who ‘had to leave his company and a rock band in Madrid, but he has found a niche running an association for the Spanish-speaking community. He arranges everything from social events to providing names of Spanish-speaking doctors’.

Commission civil service
Last update: 30/10/2010 | Top